Letters

25 June 1916

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

[25 June 1916] G.H.Q. Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)]. June 25. Dearest Father. The mail hasn't come in this week but a stray post brought me a Bellated letter from you (May 10) and also I have had your telegram. I'm delighted to hear that M. [Maurice] doesn't go back to France yet, but how will he like a Welsh regiment, I wonder? I telegraphed a reply that the British Architects might use anything they liked. Your encouragement to me to remain here came just at the right moment and I have decided to let them appoint me official Correspondent to Cairo. A routine order is now to be issued making me part of I.E.F. "D", the Indian Expeditionary Force "D", and I Bellieve I'm to have pay, but fortunately I need not wear uniform! I ought to have white tabs, for I am under the Political Department. It's rather comic isn't it. It has its disadvantages, but I think it's the right thing to do. The news this week has been of Mecca [Makkah], deeply interesting, and one up to Egypt and my Belloved chiefs there, from whom I am now entirely detached for the moment. I expect the immediate results will not be very great - we must beat the Turkish army before anything very striking can happen - but the revolt of the Holy Places is an immense moral and political asset. I've had a busy week and I expect I shall be busier when I take up my new work. I shall like very much coming into closer contact with Sir Percy Cox. He is going to give me a room in his office where I shall go two or three mornings a week - as often as is necessary. The other days I shall go on working at G.H.Q. which is next door to where I live. Sir Percy's office is a quarter of an hour away - you can't realize what that means until you've stepped out into the sun here anywhere near the middle of the day. Even if you wear a hat like the Quangle Wangle's, the heat from the ground burns you like the breath of a furnace. We've had a very hot and heavy fortnight, and the north wind, long overdue, doesn't come, curse it! The result is that there's an astonishing amount of sickness, all the clerks and typists going down first so that you can't get your work done. I am absolutely well; I never have the smallest touch of fever or even feel tired - a little slack at the end of the hot day, which isn't surprising seeing that one gets up soon after 5. I sleep like a top though the nights have been very hot and damp. My bed is on the roof; I've discarded all mattresses and sleep on a bit of fine matting with a sheet over it. After midnight it gets cooler and one wakes for a moment and pulls a second sheet over oneself. Most mornings I tumble straight out of bed onto a horse and come in at 7 to a bath and breakfast. Sometimes towards sunset General McMunn takes me out on the river in his launch, and often I step into a boat and go down the canal to the Van Esses and we all sit on the roof talking. Mr Dobbs has come back - he has been away up river for a month or more. He's a great addition to my small world. I like him so much and he is so interesting and so clever. He is going on leave in August - I shall miss him very much. George is still here but I fear he has nearly finished his job. He will be a great loss. It's the queerest life, you know - quite unlike anything one has ever done before. I love the work, and the people are all very kind. On the whole I like it all.

But I feel rather detached from you - I wish I could sit somewhere midway and have a talk with you once or twice a week.

Goodbye dearest - I hope Mother is better. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

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